Red 2

July 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker
Directed by: Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”)
Written by: Jon Hoeber (“Red”) and Erich Hoeber (“Red”)

It’s pretty clear the current trend in Hollywood is making sequels. Franchises dominate and most new follow-up entries are surefire ways for studios to make some guaranteed cash. But the existence of “Red 2” is a strange one. The first installment had a decent reception from critics, but the box office numbers were far from impressive. The film only garnering $22.5 million and finishing second on opening weekend and grossed under $100 million domestically. Nonetheless, with sequels as popular as ever before (and whether audiences were clamoring for it or not), “Red 2” has arrived and deserves a little fanfare.

Now retired, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is told by old friend Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) that killers are after then and they need to find a safe place to retreat. Thinking Marvin is just paranoid, Frank would rather just stay put with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and get on with life. A quiet life for Frank, however, isn’t in the cards. Soon, Interpol is on their tail thinking they are somehow tied to a nuclear device that has fallen into the wrong hands. Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren returns to the action as Victoria, a contract killer who has been paid to take out her former colleagues.

There’s a palpable sense of fun between cast members. Willis and Parker have great chemistry throughout the film and Willis in particular embraces the loose tone while bringing an appropriate level of action most fans know him for. Perhaps nobody is having more fun than Malkovich, whose paranoid and overly prepared character is easily the best in the film. So much of what Malkovich does is at the very least amusing. At its best, you can see why directors like the Coen brothers and Spike Jonze have cast him in darkly comical roles in the past. Still, it doesn’t all work. The novelty of seeing Mirren fire giant guns has worn off a bit, and the villain characters of the film are worthless.

The biggest struggle “Red 2” has is a fight for tone. At times, the film can strike a nice balance of humor and action, mostly when utilizing its veteran cast. In others, it is far too hokey. Characters like those performed by Brian Cox or Catherine Zeta-Jones are over the top and unfunny when put into context of the film. It’s things like Mirren reaching two arms out of either side of a moving car to fire guns or Cox watching Mirren’s feet as she shoots a gun and smelling her shoes that add a goofy albeit off-putting element.

It’s an interesting concept to see people in their 50s and 60s be able to star and hold their own in an action film. Many of the action scenes work well and are entertaining. Still, its loose tone is both a blessing and a curse. It’s highest moments provide some solid comedy and action (mostly courtesy of Malkovich) while it’s lowest feel like a director trying way too hard. There’s nothing here that is going to amaze viewers, but you could do a lot worse this summer than “Red 2.”

The Spiderwick Chronicles

February 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte
Directed by: Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”)
Written by: Karey Kirkpatrick (“Charlotte’s Web”), David Berenbaum (“Elf”), John Sayles (“Lone Star”)

Ever since the first “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” hit the big screen in 2001, fantasy films have become an essential piece of the studio’s movie arsenal. From the smaller-scale “The Brothers Grimm,” “The Bridge to Terabethia,” and “Ella Enchanted” to blockbusters like “The Chronicles of Narnia,” imaginative escapism at the theater is easy to find these days.

Enter the newest film to the genre, “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” which is based on the book of the same name by Tony DiTerizzi and Holly Black. The film follows three siblings (Freddy Highmore plays twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace), who move with their mother (Parker) into a creepy house known as the Spiderwick Estates.

Of course, there’s more to the home than a few dusty corners and eerie hallways. The estate holds a secret that stems back to the original owner himself Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn, who performs his classy scenes through some nicely scattered flashbacks). When Simon discovers a mysterious book called “Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You” he ignores the warning on the front cover that advises him not to read it.

Reminiscent of the game board in “Jumanji,” the book unleashes a host of creatures from another realm, including brownies, goblins, and faeries. There is also darker forces like Mulgarath (played by Nick Nolte), who wants to get a hold of the book for the powers it possesses. Also part of the noteworthy characters are Martin Short (“The Santa Clause 3”), who lends his voice as the bipolar Thimbletack and Seth Rogan (“Knocked Up”), who is a perfect fit for the voice of the piggish Hogsqueal (pictured above).

Highmore does a fine job playing both the Goofus and Gallant-type roles while some very impressive special effects allow both boys to react to each other and the make-believe world around them. Although Highmore is already 15 years old, he doesn’t seem to have hit that unfortunate mark in a child actor’s career (a la Haley Joel Osment of ‘The Sixth Sense”) where his or her face contorts into an unattractive, adolescent mutant. Highmore still has an innocent façade, which will keep him fresh for more role in this genre. He’s already been in a handful (“Finding Neverland,” “The Golden Compass,” “The Mists of Avalon,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Arthur and the Invisibles,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”).

Rich with creativity, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” is fun and whimsical although at times much scarier than its PG rating would have you believe. Still, even if your five-year-old is watching through his or her fingers, the family adventure should leave an impression for kids and adults alike.